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Robert Neidig

Port Jefferson school district aims to expand summer programs for drone technologies. Photo from Metro Graphics
By Nasrin Zahed

The Port Jefferson School District held its second Board of Education meeting of the 2023-24 school year Tuesday, Sept. 12, highlighting the success of districtwide summer programs and the expansion of year-round enrichment opportunities.

Jodi Cahill, director of special education, presented a detailed recount of the Extended School Year Summer Program. It is a 30-day program geared for students K-8 with moderate to severe disabilities to maintain skill levels acquired in the previous school year and prevent summer regression. This program is recommended to students based on their individualized education plans, known as IEPs.

Cahill emphasized that while this program is tailored as a continued learning opportunity for students to carry skills from last June into the following school year, it is still fun and engaging. Weekly curriculum themes, stimulating activities and field trips were in place to maintain and encourage student engagement.

Michael Caravello, music and fine arts director, took to the floor to discuss the Summer Music Camp, congratulating the program on 21 years of operation. The camp caters to students at all levels of musical talent to both prepare them for entrance and continued participation in band and orchestra programs. It also offers ukulele classes and a NYSSMA jumpstart program.

Caravello added that the camp aimed to provide students with a relaxing and open atmosphere to begin or continue their exploration of music while teaching the importance of collaboration and problem-solving among peers.

Adam Sherrard, director of health, physical education and athletics, presented on the success of the Athletic Summer Camps’ second year of running. With 20 camps advertised to students, the total offerings doubled from the program’s initial rollout in 2021-22. Over 80 student volunteers aided coaches and instructors in facilitating these programs, some even being recent graduates who took pleasure in participating. 

The camps served as forums for students to be active, work on personal health and form connections between older and younger peers.

The summer programs ebbed to a close with the Summer Academic Enrichment Program. Two camps were offered to students grades six to 12, introducing them to the world of coding and drones. The drone camp was made possible by a grant proposal to the Port Jefferson Royal Education Foundation, providing $2,000 for the district that was used to purchase 10 drones for student use.

Robert Neidig, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that the hope is now to expand summer programs to create more opportunities for students from the elementary level and beyond.

He stated that the district has applied to the state to use Title IV federal financial funding to create enrichment opportunities throughout the academic school year, with approval pending. 

The Board of Education will reconvene on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m.

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Photo by Elana Glowatz

A Miller Place official will change his rally colors to purple and white this summer.

The Port Jefferson school board hired Robert Neidig as the district’s new middle school principal on July 28, a couple of months after three-year principal Antonio Santana announced he would not return to the position for the 2015-16 school year.

Neidig, an assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School for the past eight years, will start at Port Jefferson on Aug. 17, a letter to the community from Superintendent Ken Bossert said.

A recent press release from the Port Jefferson school district said Neidig has two master’s degrees from Stony Brook University and a doctorate in educational administration from Dowling College, and started his career as a social studies teacher in Babylon before becoming an administrator.

At Miller Place, he “fostered a positive relationship between the school and community, initiated character education programs to improve the school climate, facilitated the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards and served as chairperson for four academic departments,” the press release said.

Until Neidig officially makes the move to Royals country, the middle school has an interim principal, Leonard Bozza, who was once the Longwood High School principal and has previously served in interim roles in Port Jefferson: once as an assistant principal and once as the high school principal.

In addition to appointing the new Port Jefferson Middle School leader, the school board also added Brentwood’s head of speech and hearing, Jodi Cahill, as the new director of special education and Claudia Smith, currently a Middle Country school district staffer, as the elementary and middle school assistant principal.

Cahill has a master’s in speech language pathology from LIU Post and served on Brentwood’s special education committee, the press release said. Smith has been an elementary teacher for 18 years and has a master’s from Dowling College.

“Each was selected based upon outstanding vision, strong content knowledge, and the ability to collaborate with all stakeholders in an effective manner,” Bossert said of the three new staffers.

The district is still looking for an assistant principal for Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, and Bossert said the goal is to have one appointed before school starts.

Neidig, Cahill and Smith are part of a new lineup throughout Port Jefferson schools. In addition to replacing Santana, the district had to find a replacement for Matthew Murphy, the former high school principal, who announced his departure a few months before Santana. Officials recently promoted Christine Austen to the position from her role as the assistant principal for grades pre-k through 12.

Smith is absorbing Austen’s former elementary and middle school duties and the educator who is hired as the high school’s assistant principal will complete that transition.

“This is an exciting time in the Port Jefferson school district,” Bossert said in the press release. “[It is] a time filled with opportunities for growth and development as new leaders join the team.”